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GDC: Jeff Minter Keynotes Independent Games Summit

Starting up Monday's Independent Games Summit, veteran Llamasoft developer Jeff Minter brought his audience a goodly dose of shooting, animals, and surrealist humor as he described his decades long history in the business and his process in designing for
The Independent Games Summit started off slowly as Jeff Minter apologized for being more used to speaking to machines than people. Few in the capacity room minded as Minter’s love for independent game development shown clearly. Minter dwelled on many of his past games, including Gridrunner and Attack of the Mutant Camels. He showed both the European version of the latter as well as what Americans knew as AMC, but actually just a version of Gridrunner. Minter commented that American publishers at this time “were going to follow the herd, and the herd didn’t include any of my beasties.” Minter showed some of his early attempts at music visualizations, sans audio. Small programs for Atari 800 and Commodore 64 were originally intended to be “played” alongside a separate music system. From here, Minter moved onto music visualization, this time with music actually driving the system, played on the Atari Jaguar and later the Xbox 360. “I can’t do this stuff where you write your design spec first,” said Minter. “It’s the feeling I’m going for when I’m making a game these days... there don’t even have to be any animals in it anymore!” He then launched Space Giraffe and played it for the audience, while he described its gameplay as well as some of how it was developed. “First thing’s first: Space Giraffe is not Tempest,” he stated. “You can play this like Tempest, but you’ll wonder why you don’t get a good score.” Minter demonstrated playing the level in a Tempest manner, followed by playing the level by properly using the Bull attack, giving him a score ten times higher. Other enemies unique to the game include feedback monsters that cause the whole level to pulse and flare, as well as enemies that would spin the level around. Like many of Minter’s past games, Space Giraffe is not an overly difficult game to complete, in contrast to many of the games his projects seem to be inspired by. You’ll always make progress in Space Giraffe, said Minter, even as you die repeatedly. Throughout, the audience enjoyed Minter’s bluntness in describing his experience as an employee for various companies as well as the humor so readily apparent in his games. “A lot of games take themselves too seriously these days,” said Minter, himself seeming to be captivated by his own game as he attempted to balance answering audience questions with playing levels like “Flumm Ox” and “Back At The Orifice.” He concluded on the concept that abstract games-as-art would approach the mainstream, taking a jab at the world's biggest publisher along the way: "The more we see in this electronic art, as opposed to Electronic Arts, the more space there will be for it".

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